The best way to strengthen your legs, keep your heart and lungs fit and your energy levels high in preparation for surgery is to walk regularly. Don’t be afraid to walk in the months and weeks leading up to your surgery – it won’t harm your knee or hip joint. Follow the “two-hour” pain rule: If your joint hurts for longer than two hours after your walk, you have done too much. Do what you can to manage the pain and walk a bit less the next day. If weight bearing activity is limited by pain, consider using a bike or doing water exercises. Bicycling maintains mobility and joint lubrication, strengthens your quadriceps muscles, and provides a cardiovascular workout.
Besides walking, your surgeon may recommend that you do some regular pre-operative exercises. Some of these exercises are aimed at strengthening your arms and shoulders, which will help you manage crutches or a walker and getting in and out of chairs after surgery. Others will help maintain the strength of your leg muscles.
Before starting any exercise program, check in with your healthcare team to make sure the exercises are appropriate for you. Perform exercises 3 days per week to build strength. Start with 1 set of 8 to 15 repetitions building up to 3 sets of 15 reps.
Benefits of Exercise in Recovery
It is important to continue exercises during the recovery phase of your surgery. Your care team will provide you with appropriate exercises, many of which may be similar to those found here. There are many benefits to exercising during your recovery, including:
Strengthening and stability
The goal of strengthening and stability exercises is to help you regain strength in the muscles around the affected joint and also in the rest of your leg, your trunk, your other leg and both your arms. For most recovery exercises, you may use special elastic bands or tubing for resistance training. If you have ready access to a swimming pool and if your surgeon says it is safe, water exercises may be added to your overall program. A bicycle can also help with strength and endurance.
Increasing your endurance
The goal is to help muscles in your legs, back, trunk and arms work more effectively over longer periods of time. Depending on your surgery, your physiotherapist may suggest you start pedaling on a recumbent bicycle (the type where you lean back against the seat) or upright bicycle.. As you recover, you may progress to a treadmill and to walking outdoors for progressively longer periods of time.